Epilepsy Talk

Mail-Order Meds — Savings and Service | November 20, 2022

For some people, accessing the pharmacy remains one of the biggest barriers to retrieving prescriptions.

A lack of social support, time constraints and limited access to convenient transportation are commonly cited as reasons users cannot get their medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But it’s not just patients who have difficulty getting to the pharmacy who benefit from mail-order pharmacies: These programs offer flexibility, time and cost-savings to all enrolled.

Cost

Many recurring prescriptions cost less when ordered through the mail.

By offering increased day supplies of prescriptions for chronic conditions (e.g., 90-day prescriptions vs. 30-day prescriptions) and saving on costs typically associated with brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies, mail-order programs present cost-savings opportunities that can then be passed on to the consumer.

Convenience

Some mail order services will deliver maintenance medications through the mail, and also allow customers to pick up their prescription at a local pharmacy.

Mail-order customers who use in-store pickup, also receive the extended, 90-day maintenance medication prescriptions at the generally lower mail-order prices.

Customer service

With most mail-order programs, customers can make prescription refill requests online or by phone.

Patients can have prescriptions automatically sent on the refill date, or have alerts dispatched via email, phone or text to remind them that a prescription is nearing the refill date.

In many cases, mail-service customers can check their order online or by phone, and receive digital consumer health education about their medication and health condition.

Care quality

An American Journal of Managed Care report found that mail-order pharmacy use is not associated with adverse events in most patients living with chronic illness.

To the contrary, researchers said mail-order programs could be associated with improved health outcomes.

The data also suggests that efforts to increase the availability of mail-order programs could be an important strategy for improving processes and outcomes of care for patients with chronic illness.

Consider the following before choosing a mail-order pharmacy:

Before you sign up with a mail-order pharmacy, check the prices.

Legitimate mail-order pharmacies may have high retail prices, but your out-of-pocket cost (co-pay) is likely to be very low.

If the retail price of the drugs is too good to be true, it is probably a scam; the drugs may not be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Look for a VIPPS seal.

If a website has the seal, it means it is among the “Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites” and approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Ensure that there’s a pharmacist that you can call, email, or chat with online if you have any questions.

If not, consider purchasing your prescription elsewhere.

Make sure the mail-order pharmacy asks for your prescription. If it doesn’t, it may not be legitimate, and you could get the wrong medication.

For employers and consumers, a 30-day brand-name prescription is still cheaper at a mail pharmacy than a retail community pharmacy.

However, mail’s economic advantage is vanishing because six out of ten employers allow community pharmacies to fill 90-day prescriptions for maintenance medications.

These programs reduce retail reimbursement and shrink the mail-retail gap.

Now the powers that be are trying to take away the ability for us to have 90-days’ supply of our meds and equipment delivered to our doorstep.

Even though it’s a boon for people who depend on multiple prescriptions that would otherwise be running out at different times every month, forcing us to virtually live at the pharmacy? No less running out of meds!

The premise of angry pharmacists, losing business across the nation, is that “mail-order treats filling a prescription as delivering a commodity — like buying books from Amazon or sheets from Lands’ End — not providing an aspect of medical care, and that patients benefit from a consistent relationship with their pharmacist.”

It turns out they’re not necessarily trying to ban mail-order (impossible even if they wanted to), but rather are fighting for new legislation — that would give traditional pharmacists “the right to offer multi-month prescriptions on a similar basis to those offered by the mail-order houses.”

The other argument they make is that people shouldn’t be forced by their insurers to use mail-order if they do not wish to.

Many insurers apparently require it because it’s simply cheaper for them.

But, there’s a role for BOTH retail and mail-order — because pharmacies are still the best way to fill prescriptions needed immediately, and mail-order is best suited for “maintenance drugs” that people like us take continuously.

One NY Times blogger writes: “Once, my pharmacist circulated a petition warning customers about the dangers of mail-order giants putting people like him out of business.”

It’s like Wal-Mart vs. the Mom-and-Pop shops of America. If you have a chronic illness like epilepsy, mail-order meds can be a godsend.

And I think the warm fuzzy interaction with your local pharmacist is overrated — if not altogether fictionalized.

“Everyone knows that mail-service pharmacies save money for consumers, employers, unions and government agencies,” said Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) President and CEO Mark Merritt. 

“It’s wrong for independent drug stores to try and enrich themselves at the expense of small employers struggling to offer affordable prescription benefits to their employees.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the value provided by those participating in the federal employees’ health plan.

For prescription drugs dispensed through mail-order pharmacies, the average mail-order price was about 27 percent below the average cash-price paid by consumers for a brand name at a retail pharmacy and 53 percent below the average cash-price paid for generic drugs.

Pharmacology

Official Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy peer-reviewed data found that highly automated mail-service pharmacies dispensed prescriptions with 23 times greater accuracy than retail pharmacies.

The mail-service error rate was zero in several of the most critical areas, including dispensing the correct drug, dosage, and dosage form.

American Journal of Managed Care: Consumers receiving their prescription medications for chronic conditions through a mail-service pharmacy “were more likely to take them as prescribed by their doctors than did patients who obtained them from a local pharmacy.”

Key findings from the study include:

Mail-order pharmacy users were more likely than local pharmacy users to have a financial incentive to fill their prescriptions by mail (49.6 percent vs. 23.0 percent), and to live a greater distance away from a local pharmacy (8.0 miles vs. 6.7 miles).

84.7 percent of patients who received their medications by mail, stuck to their physician-prescribed regimen at least two-thirds of the time vs. 76.9 percent who picked up their medications at “brick and mortar” Kaiser Permanente pharmacies.

It’s difficult to dispute cost-savings, reliability, door-to-door convenience, timely refills and accuracy.

For us, that’s enough to make you sign up today.

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Resources:

http://www.drugchannels.net/2011/10/retail-and-mail-pharmacy-economics.html

https://www.verywellhealth.com/mail-order-drugs-1738892

https://www.discounttirefamily.com/advantages-of-mail-order-prescriptions/

https://www.homemed.com/blog/5-key-advantages-of-mail-order-pharmacy-services

https://bondbenefitsconsulting.com/mail-order-pharmacy-what-are-the-benefits/


6 Comments »

  1. My problem with any drug company & drug store is getting a 90 day supply. The neurologist can write it out for 90 days, but the PART D insurance & drug store will not work together for you the patient. A 90 day supply I think I should be able to get in the WINTER months & early spring, considering roads & winter weather can stop you from getting out to get to a drug store, as all CSD’s Controlled Substance Drugs, from what all pharmacies tell you, you can not get more than a 30 day supply. So the 1st 3 months of the year can be HELL to get drugs, if you can not get a 90 day supply, that can maybe last until April, but do not tell anyone else that, if you can not get on the roads to get your drugs every 30 days. After April, it does not matter, but here it is now November before THANKSGIVING DAY & if we had snow here with the temps as they are now, in 2014 we had snow on the ground from Thanksgiving week, to the middle of April & I had NO 90 day supply of any drug then.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James D — November 20, 2022 @ 6:43 PM

    • Arthur has the same problem. It dictates when we can go away and how far we can go, because the prescription is not honored across state lines.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 20, 2022 @ 8:10 PM

  2. I was very happy to get my med via mail order for a couple of years until the mail order company sent me a letter requesting proof that I wasn’t driving while taking that med. Hello? It’s no business of theirs, but I take that med so that I can drive thanks to being seizure-free for years. So I returned my prescription to the local pharmacist who sees that I drive in to pick it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Deb — November 20, 2022 @ 8:11 PM

  3. I’ve had some real inconsistencies with processing times — to the point of me having to call my doctor to get a three-day prescription to tide me over until the meds arrive OR have the pharmacy overnight the meds — more than once. I don’t know if others have experienced these problems — but it was enough to turn me off.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Frances C — November 21, 2022 @ 3:44 PM

  4. Unfortunately, the same thing has happened to my husband in a regular pharmacy. They never seem to have the med in stock when he’s due to be refilled. And since it’s a controlled substance, he can’t get an over ride. He can’t even put in the script a day early! 😒

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 21, 2022 @ 5:29 PM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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